Showing posts from December, 2009

Happy New Year (Really)!

I don't know what the booksellers Billings, Harbourne & Co of San Francisco had in mind back in 1883 when they issued this solemn New Year's greeting. Could they have found a more unhappy looking figure to represent their wishes for a Happy New Year? The reverse side offers a poem, which may help explain the forlorn look on the young woman's face. Apparently she is separated from her loved one and his words express a longing to see her on New Year's Day. K. Van Tassell is credited as the artist, but I can't find anything about an artist with this name. L. Prang & Co. of Boston is the publisher of this card in 1883, and there is a lot of information available about this prolific chromolithographer. A German immigrant to Boston circa 1850, Louis Prang became a popular printer of collectible trade cards. The Philadelphia Print Shop offers prints of Prang's work as well as a brief biography of his life. At this site, I learned that Prang, as his business

Bookseller Sleuths, Fast and Loose

This recent addition to my collection is a publicity photo from the 1939 movie, Fast and Loose , a B movie at best that depicts a rare bookseller and his wife sleuthing around a crime scene involving a murdered bookseller and rare books theft. This particular photo was actually run in an Argentine newspaper, but I'd bet the same photo was used anywhere the film needed promotion. And from reviews I've read, it needed a lot of promotion. The film Fast and Loose was the second in a series of three films inspired by the book Fast Company , by Harry Kurnitz (Dodd, Mead, 1938). My copy below is a second printing of the first Pocket Books edition in 1943. Marco Page was the pseudonym Kurnitz used. Both the book and film have slipped into obscurity. I can't find a copy of the film anywhere to buy or rent, but if you'd like a first edition of Fast Company , which spawned the film series, there are actually a few copies to be had. But be prepared to spend around $500 and up.

Santa Redux: Dutton's Christmas Handbill

Tonight, boys and girls around the world eagerly await Santa Claus and the gifts he will bring on his magical journey. Accordingly, I thought I'd visit the ephemera of Christmas past with a link to my post last year about this turn of the century (ca. 1900) handbill.

Christmas books from Amarillo, Texas

Just in time for Christmas, the Amarillo Book Shop catalog showed up in my mailbox today. But unless I can time-travel, I won't be getting what I'd like to have out of this catalog for Christmas Day. This catalog is from 1927 and features Ernest Hemingway's latest collection of short stories, Men Without Women , for $2.00. Back here in 2009, that same book in as fine condition as the Amarillo Book Shop had it would be in the neighborhood of $10,000. That's a nice neighborhood! Page 8 offers a related vignette and refers the reader to page 16 to see the listing for the book. I like looking through these old book shop catalogs to see what was for sale and for how much. But what first caught my eye was the cover graphic, an illustration in red depicting a winter (Christmas) book shop scene, complete with a one-horse open sleigh. The illustrator is not credited other than by the initials M.D. My ephemera collection includes prints and various formats of illustrations, suc

International bookseller labels from New York

Cataloging books the other day, I struggled through a few non-English titles, trying to translate French and German to English to see what exactly I was dealing with. To my surprise, both had their bookseller labels still affixed. I hadn't come across any of these ephemeral bits of the book trade in a while and was getting complacent about even looking for them in more recently published books such as those harboring these labels. The two New York City booksellers, represented here by their inconspicuous labels, were anything but inconspicuous as long-established bookselling concerns with specialties in foreign language titles. The Librairie de France closed its doors just a few months ago. With rent tripling to about a million dollars a year, they just couldn't stay open in their Rockefeller Center space, where they'd been for 74 years. The picture below, from the New York Daily News, shows the store and its owner, Emanuel Molho, whose father started the business in 1928.